Sexuality Policy Watch

Sexual politics in July 2018


22nd International AIDS Conference:  On July 22, Pedro Villardi, from GTPI-ABIA, participated in the  Challenging Criminalization Globally Pre-Conference, one of the more important satellites events in which matters related to gender and sexuality were debated. Other relevant events to be reported are: the Change seminar on the detrimental effects of Trump policies;  the debate called by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law;  the protest against the SESTA/FOSTA. An  Open Call was also made that demands the location of the next conference in the US to be changed, as many activists would not be able to attend it due to Trump immigration and sexuality-related policies. In the realm of treatment access, GTPI–ABIA denounced the judicial contestation made by Gilead of the Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency decision to approve the generic version of drug Sofosbuvir (to treat hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS co-infection).

Nicaragua: On July 19, the date that marks the victory of the Sandinistas against the Somoza dictatorship, in El Salvador, Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay civil society organizations joined the Feminist Call for Solidarity to push for Ortega’s resignation. Costa Rica Vice President Epsy Campbell has also joined the initiative. On July 23rd,  a young Brazilian female doctor was killed in Managua triggering a strong reaction from the Brazilian government. But despite the growing number of casualties and increasing pressures from all quarters, Daniel Ortega strongly resists resignation. Mary Ellsberg wrote an insightful inside view on the country’s crisis contesting those narratives that interpret it as a right-wing coup.

Barbados: Mia Mottley’s is now the first female  Prime Minister of Barbados. When she was elected, SPW invited Roberta Clarke to write about the election and future prospects. We dearly thank Roberta for her insightful article.

Abortion rights:  Latin America and Africa

While, in Argentina, the debate on the law reform approved by the House of Representative on June 14th continued at the Senate, in Chile, feminist movements took over the streets to mark the first anniversary of the abortion law reform and to call for its enlargement.  In Brazil, pro-abortion rights activism prepared for a Supreme Court Public Hearing hearing on ADPF 442/2017, the lawsuit that interrogates the constitutionality of abortion prohibition. In response, anti-abortion rights forces have become decidedly aggressive in all three countries.

In Argentina,  attacks against the coordinators of the Campaign for Legal, Safe and Free abortion intensified. Teenagers using the green scarf have been physically harassed in various cities. Anti-abortion marches were called by the Church hierarchy across the country and anti-abortion health professionals began circulating videos calling for preemptive conscientious objection. The governor of the Province of Buenos Aires, known for her connection with the Church,  has also come public against the partially approved law (compilation in Spanish).

In Chile, in the march called to mark the first year of the 2017 abortion reform,  feminists and other pro-abortion rights activists were viciously attacked by an extreme right group with firecrackers, barricades and animal blood spilled over the street. Three activists were stabbed by a hooded group of around fifty people (not all of them men). Check the article published in The Guardian and the declaration of one of the injured feminists  (in Spanish). Tensions, including with the police, have also arisen in demonstrations held in other cities (see a compilation).

In Brazil,  threats against activist and professor Débora Diniz have intensified and anti-abortion voices began targeting persons and organizations that will participate in the Supreme Court Public Hearing. Then,  another black woman,  named Ingriane,  died of a botched abortion in Petropolis, a city nearby  Rio. Her tragic death once again demonstrated the disproportionate effects of criminalization on young black women. To read the complete report on the case published at the Portal Catarinas (in Portuguese) check here.

But, the road towards the Public Hearing has also a bright side. It has re-ignited the debate at all levels of society and enhanced a vast and long waited production of new data on the realities of abortion in Brazil. This can be illustrated by a complete and evidence-based report by the Minister of Health that will be presented at the Public Hearing,  whose content was synthesized in Folha de São Paulo on July 29th (read in Portuguese). The report estimates that, in the course of the last ten years, between 9.5 to 12 million women have undergone unsafe clandestine procedures, 262 women died and the cost of abortion complications treatment accounted for 130 million dollars. Very soon, SPW will circulate a more detailed report on how the debates have evolved in and around the Public Hearing.

In Kenya, in 2015, JMM who was 14 been raped but and got pregnant, but was denied a legal abortion. She died of an unsafe procedure. The case has now reached the Supreme Court. The lawsuit demands reparation and the reinstatement of safe abortion guidelines and training of professionals. A decision will be delivered soon.


The best news to be reported in this domain is that in India the  Supreme Court began revisiting the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Penal Code inherited from British colonization that criminalizes same-sex relations between men. As it is well known, the article was struck down by a Delhi High Court groundbreaking ruling in 2009, a decision that influenced debates in many other countries where similar colonial norms are still in the books. But, in 2013, the decision was contested by the Supreme Court. Then, in August 2017, the Supreme Court issued a decision on the right to privacy that opened the path for Section 377 to be once again examined. The new judgment began on July 10th even when the Central government tried to protract the process (check our compilation here). To learn more about the long trajectory of the 377 case, we also suggest the reading of Radhika Ramasubban study published by SPW  in 2007.

In Cuba, where a Constitution Reform is underway to replace the 1976 Communist Magna Carta, provisions have been proposed on sexual orientation and gender identity, such as a new definition of marriage as a “union of two persons” . These proposals , which were made public in May in  Agenda for LGBTIQ rights prepared by the LGBTIQ community, were strongly attacked in a joint letter issued by Evangelical churches.

In Trinidad & Tobago, a High Court debate on the criminalization of same-sex conduct inherited from British colonization (Section 13 of the Sexual Offenses Act) is underway,  since April. The final decision is scheduled for September 20th.

In Lebanon, a district court of appeal in Lebanon issued a groundbreaking ruling on July 12, 2018, that consensual intercourse between people of the same sex is not unlawful.

Gender identity and intersex rights

The Portuguese Parliament approved on July 12 a new ruling granting the right to gender identity to people over 16  without the need for medical diagnosis or intervention. It also prohibits genital surgery procedures of intersex infants.  However,   a  subsequent presidential veto has nserted in the new law the requirement of a medical diagnosis for minors who want to chenge their gender identity (read in Portuguese).

Since 2011, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), has issued 36 reprimands that condemn intersex genital mutilation and lack of adequate support for intersex children and their families. In its last session, the  Committee has also defined these surgeries as a serious human rights violation in revising the national reports on Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and Liechtenstein.

The February 2018, Brazilian Supreme Court decision on trans persons right to social identity without medical diagnosis or intervention continues to inspire academic debates. For those who can read Portuguese, we recommend the reading of Julia Silva Vidal and Sophia Pires Bastos paper on the language and premises of the ruling.

The Israel connection 

The problematic and obscure links between Israel, LGBTT rights, arms trade and securitization is analyzed by Marco Aurélio Prado in his assessment of how and why a Tel Aviv Pride float has paraded in the São Paulo 2018 LGBTT Pride in June 2018.

Women’s rights

In Iraq, in the course of presidential and legislative elections, feminist candidates from the so-called al-Sadr faction gained surprising popularity, at the same time becoming the target of innumerous harassment episodes, which were condemned by the UN.

In India, the Delhi High Court judged the unconstitutionality of Section 375 of the IPC that criminalizes rape, ruling that evidence of physical force is not necessary to characterize the offense of marital rape.

Also in India, the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, introduced in 2016 by the Minister for Women and Child Development and approved in February 2018 by the Prime Minister was tabled in Congress on July 11, 2018. Human rights solicitors and activists from the Lawyers Collective and Amnesty International questioned the provision reminding that the new bill does not serve to harmonize existing contradictory norms on trafficking, but rather is aimed at imposing penalties that will harm sex workers, trans and gender diverse persons.

The politics of gender

In Bulgaria, where rates of gender-based violence and LGBT rights violations are very high, the Constitutional Court repealed the European Council Convention on preventing and combating gender-based violence — known as the Istanbul Convention–, which had been approved by the government in January. The judges alleged dissonance over the European definition of gender that comprises gender diversity.

In Bolivia, the Ministry of Education responded to the public inquiry made by an anti-abortion and pro-traditional family group declaring that it will not allow for the inclusion of gender and sexuality language and contents in the national educational plan (in Spanish). And, in Ecuador, a new round of marches against abortion and “gender ideology” has taken over the streets in various cities (read in Spanish).

In Brazil, where censorship, dismissal and harassment of academics continue to proliferate on various grounds (compilation in Portuguese) another attack on a female professor engaged in a research on the homicide of lesbians has erupted at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, a public condemnation of this attack is already available in English.

Vatican Politics

In Chile, after Pope Francis’s visit in January, a report disclosed by the National Prosecutor’s Office on the Church sexual abuse scandal accused 58 abusers of 266 people, mostly underage girls and boys. The investigation led to Bishop Muñoz arrest and the resignation of five Cardinals. Concurrently, the Pope accepted the resignations of Cardinal McCarrick on July 28, a prominent member of the US Church, and of Australian Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson on July 30.

Against the backdrop of these overlapping scandals, paradoxically enough, mainstream media vehicles gave wide visibility to the mention, for the first time, of the term LGBT in a Vatican document.

Sexuality & Art

Given the prominence of Indian sexual politics in July, we revisit the superb work of Bhupen Khakhar.

We recommend

Papers and articles


Roe isn’t just about women’s rights. It’s about everyone’s personal liberty – The Washington Post

Three children, two abortion – The Atlantic

How anti-abortion activists use cutting edge science to justify ever stricter laws – The Guardian

Body and desire: a cultural interrogation – Interview with Madhavi Menon at Lila Inter Actions

How ‘conscientious objectors’ threaten women’s newly-won abortion rights in Latin America – openDemocracy

In Paraguay, fighting for women’s rights means fighting the past – PRI

Political conservatism

Christian right’s sexual illiberalism sowed seeds for Trump – openDemocracy

Concern about “sexualised” children often misses the point – The Economist

Sex work

When former Sex Workers become SWERFS – Kelly Palmer


Comedy is part of feminist history and we need it more than ever – openDemocracy

Deborah Cameron: The illusion of inclusion – Language: a feminist guide

Publications and resources

Report July 2018 – Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN)

Smart Guide to CEDAW for sex workers rights movement – NSWP

Technical Brief ‘Out With It: HIV and Other Sexual Health Considerations for Young Men Who Have Sex with Men’ – MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights, WHO, UNDP and UNFPA

Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: New Table of Cases – International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program – University of Toronto

I-CONnect Symposium–The Chilean Constitutional Court’s Abortion Decision–Finding and Losing Women in Abortion Law Reform: The Case of the Chilean Constitutional Decision on Law 21030

Edit histories – Reboot: sex gender tech

Legal Gender Recognition: A Multi-Country Legal and Policy Review in Asia – Asia Pacific Transgender Network and UNDP


International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion.

30 July 2018–5 August 2018

23 July 2018–29 July 2018

16 July 2018–22 July 2018

9 July 2018–15 July 2018

Equal eyes on our world

2 August 2018

16 July 2018


#127 | July 20-26, 2018

#126 | June 29-July 19, 2018

In Plainspeak 

Power and sexuality – July 2018


Reflections on our countries – July 2018

Check it out!

Global Advocacy Adviser position at The Center for Reproductive Rights

ILGA’s United Nations Programme & Advocacy (Universal Periodic Review, Human Rights Council and Sustainable Development Goals). Deadline: 19 August 2018.

Access SPW’s website.

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